Interview & Words by Jake Paine

On March 26, 2002, New York City quartet Non-Phixion released an album that truly took a decade to make. Ill Bill, Goretex, Sabac Red, and DJ Eclipse had withstood at least three deals gone dry, an early exit from their most recognizable member in 3rd Bass’ MC Serch, and a rapidly-changing New York soundscape.

In the end, the foursome without a fuck to give landed on their feet, and then some. After two major label courtships, it was Ill Bill’s own Uncle Howie imprint that would back the group at its supernova. While Serch would help hone the balance of Sabac, Gore’ and Bill, the outfit ultimately thrived as the unique and burgeoning talents they were, rather than a perceived offshoot. And The Future Is Now honored the past, as only four complex super-fans amassing their dream lineup could, all while blazing a path walked by many artists in several genres today.

As fate would have it, Non-Phixion’s lone studio album would serve—as Bill jokes—as a unicorn. In the years that followed, the group broke to pursue solo interests, other collectives, and delve into those individual styles that made The Future Is Now such a contrasting mosaic. Lightning in a bottle served one intoxicating round of consciousness, subversive information, scratch choruses, and the most dust references in a single Rap album, ever.

Twelve-plus years later, the members of Non-Phixion (each with a family of their own) are scattered across the country. After close to a decade removed from the group, and a city that spawned the messages, the grit, and DIY attitude, the men dust off the name to join Get On Down in a beautiful box-set reissue. Featuring picture-cover 7” singles, the original street mixtape, and an extensive book on and about the group (by journalist Chris Faraone), The Future Is Now is presented as a timeless hallmark.

On Independence Day, July 4th, the group began a series of rare interviews on the release and reissue with Crazy Hood. Speaking candidly, the members remember a time in their lives, in Hip-Hop, and in New York City that comes alive with each spin of the record. Fans can better understand the roles, the chemistry, and like the vinyl stickers in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn’s alleyways today, why Non-Phixion’s spirit and presence is immortal.

Crazy Hood: All of you guys are known to deeply love music. Eclipse, you have walls of records in your house. What does it mean to you see Get On Down and you guys release this really over the top collectors edition of The Future Is Now?

Ill Bill: Super excited, just from a fan and collector’s kind of perspective and viewpoint. I just love the way it came out. It’s cool to visualize something in advance, and then to see it come to fruition, and it’s even crazier than what you thought it could be—that’s how I feel about this box set. It’s excessive, in a good way. [Laughs] Even the book, we thought it was gonna be 30-40 pages when we first sat down with Get On Down and chopped it up. It just got to the point where we couldn’t make it any less than what it was; it could’ve been 150 pages. We had a lot of material—there’s a lot of photos that didn’t even make the book. It’s a labor of love, and it’s not labor if you love what you do. I had a great time putting it together; I’m what they call a hoarder. [Laughs] I call myself an archivist.

DJ Eclipse: It was awesome. [Ill] Bill was the one who kind of parlayed the information to me. I believe Frank The Butcher had told Bill that the guys at Get On Down might be interested in doing something with us. Not only myself, but Bill really, was a huge fan of Get On Down because he’s been buying the Ghostface [Killah], and Raekwon, and Nas reissues, so he was already a fan. It’s crazy, because people think we’re celebrating some kind of an [anniversary] timeline, but really, it isn’t. [Laughs] It’s just that they happened to step to us, and we [agreed]. We already had some plans of doing some reissues of some of our other stuff. More than likely, it’d go through Fat Beats [Records]. But we liked the fact that this particular album sits with Get On Down and the rest of their catalog, just ‘cause we’re big fans of what they’ve already done with the releases. It’s kind of cool to see our record next to those other ones.

Sabac Red: I always knew that there was this respect and [cache] to this classic piece of material—that I consider to be classic, anyway. I received my box set in the mail, I was telling [DJ] Eclipse and [Ill] Bill, “I took myself out of [the equation] and just became a fan.” One, the packaging that [Get On Down] did is immaculate! It’s so clean, and so dope. And then, looking back at each individual piece and reflecting back on the time that I recorded those pieces, to “I Shot Reagan,” to “Black Helicopters,” to The Green CD, when it was released…looking at the [liner notes], I became a fan. I was extremely proud. I think Non-Phixion, we prematurely ended our group, and I think that fans that really supported us over the years, and hold The Future Is Now in high regards deserve something like this. I think it’s an awesome piece of work that Get On Down did, and I’m glad we got to put it out.

Goretex: It felt great upon seeing it. The finished product speaks for itself, and you can tell that it’s a labor of love. The packaging, the book, and the mixtape included…I can’t think of any Hip-Hop project that came out like this. It’s just dope. No matter how many years ago, it still feels very recent to me. It doesn’t sound as old as it is; it feels pretty fresh in my head.

Crazy Hood: It’s been a decade since Non-Phixion parted ways as a group, but all four lasting members are involved, in some way, with this box-set release. How does it feel, regardless of whatever the future holds, that the storyline continues in some form or fashion?

Ill Bill: It’s phenomenal! Everybody in the group agrees, ‘cause we’re all parents now. It’s cool for the kids; they love it. My daughter—she’s about to turn eight—asks me all the time, “What is this? Who are these people?” She knows what I’m doing currently; I bring her on stage. Non-Phixion split before she was born. Now she’s looking at the books, looking at the box-set, and she likes it. That’s the best joy I’m getting. That’s another chapter [in the storyline] right there.

Goretex: I can’t speak for everybody else, but for me, it’s refreshing. For me, it feels good, even if we’re working on a smaller project; it really didn’t matter what capacity it is. I think it’s cool. People grow. Me, personally, I’m looking to grow as a person. I think everybody came together on a project like this, which means a lot to a lot of people, to create something just right, to leave a lasting impression of what we’re really trying to do. It’s a nice little keepsake.

Sabac Red: It’s amazing! Musically, I think about how much more we could have done. If we created this piece of work, right? It stood the test of time, 15 years later, 12 years later—when some of the stuff was recorded. I just think of the opportunities we could have had, each of us. Bill especially, but I’ve done some solo stuff, and so did [Goretex], and Eclipse is renowned at what he’s done…we’ve all continued to take our musical paths, and we continued to create and build from what we had with Non-Phixion as a foundation. But I do think what we could have done, and could have been—maybe even doing one or two more [albums], since this record holds the test of time. Also, the messaging…we talked about Non-Phixion and what made us stand out from what a lot people are doing now, and at that time, was our ability to capture what we felt was necessary to speak to people. Imagine how much more of an influence we would have had [if these songs had so much influence].

Crazy Hood: What’s it like when you listen to The Future Is Now today?

DJ Eclipse: It’s sounds just as good now as it did then, to me. I’m really proud of the music we made for that album. The collective of people we chose to work with on it really helped us make it kind of a timeless kind of thing. It’s funny, ‘cause when I go out and [perform as a DJ], I always bring my Serato records, but then I bring one piece of vinyl with me just in case I need to switch over from another DJ who’s using Serato. The vinyl I bring is The Future Is Now Instrumentals album. I always use one of those tracks to segway [to whoever performs before or after me]. It was just a good mesh of styles and topics and stuff.

Crazy Hood: How did you tailor or fit your own personal style into the context of the group or the album?

Sabac Red: We knew that authenticity and being truthful—which is what we were doing—was what we wanted to project to the audience. It was all smart, on our behalf, in the sense that I never [smoked Angel] Dust and PCP and all of that, but there was an element that folks in the group did, and they brought that to the table. None of us denied each other the opportunity to put out what we felt was our truth. Bill and Goretex accepted what I thought was—you know, I grew up in youth organizations, coming from Brooklyn, my history, and stuff that I was healing from at that moment. I came from a youth organization focused on connecting young people with social issues and community organizing, so I brought that. Bill and Goretex came from where they came from, so meshing that together was perfect. Ultimately, we felt that people wanted to hear the truth, and hear the balance. We got really creative, and one thing we all had in common was that we were Hip-Hop heads who loved the culture and loved the music. We grew up on it, and you couldn’t take that away. So imagine taking three guys with three perspectives who had the commonality of listening to DJ Premier, The Beatnuts, and Large Professor—everyone who we grew up on, Rakim, and all the clichés that people say, but it’s very, very real for us. I got this verse talking on Socialism, community organizing, and here comes Goretex talking about “Sergio Tacchini, baked ziti, and crack-head bitches who look a lot like Ally Sheedy,” and then Bill was coming in with this extraterrestrial, and it’s like, “Wait a minute, it’s not boring!” We all complemented each other, and we never asked each other to not write or record what we felt was our truth.

Ill Bill: [MC] Serch kind of brought something to the group—a style to what me and Goretex were doing, ‘cause me and Gore’ were working together a lot before Non-Phixion. When we started working with Sabac [Red], [DJ] Eclipse, and Serch, they were running with each other; Non-Phixion’s almost like two groups combined. Me and Gore’ are Metal-heads who grew up on Hip-Hop; we weren’t listening to more of one, we were listening to all of it, all day long. The thing is…we were listening to a lot of Metal, and those dudes don’t come from that. So I think when we started fuckin’ with Serch, we toned it down. We weren’t talking about as much Satanism. Literally. We talk now though. After Serch left the group, we went A.W.O.L, you know what I mean? Really, keep it 100. If you listen to the early Non-Phixion stuff…I think Gore’ had a harder time toning himself down. But he held himself back a lil’ bit, on certain darker concepts. Once Serch was gone though, that was out the window.

My demos though, were more on the Horror-core tip before there was “Horror-core,” which is a term I always thought was corny. It’s funny though, I was with Joe Fatal last night. He recorded on my demos, at Power Play [Studios]. The whole time I was makin’ those demos, Large Professor was there, in the other room, workin’ on shit with Nas. But if me, Goretex and Necro would’ve started a group in an alternate universe from Non-Phixion, my initial style would have maintained.

DJ Eclipse: The early beginnings of Non-Phixion, I would say that I actually had more of a hand in, ‘cause I was actually producing all of the earlier stuff. Of those three to five demos we did was when I was really producing a lot. It was really more of like a Gang Starr sort of thing, where I was producing everything, but I was in the group, and the MCs on the songs were in the group. It was all self-contained, and it wasn’t until after the first single that we actually started branching out and working with people that were affiliated with us, and down with us. By the time the album came out, we had a budget to do much more with it, and that’s when we really started reaching out to other people. By that time, I wasn’t really producing as much. So I obviously wanted to make sure my presence was there on the album, so wherever there was cuts needed, I’d go ahead and [do] that. Just looking at my own timeline, I can see how going from producing everything to that, it gave me [more to do] behind the scenes. Back then, we were independent. Even though we had deals that never [were fruitful], we still had to really do most of the work ourselves. So usually, it’d be Bill and myself that would handle a lot of that stuff. That’s another why I stopped producing as much, and handled more of the business end of things. To this day, that’s kind of how it is. We’re all in different projects and groups that we work with, and I kind of give up a lot of my creativeness, so to speak, so I can make sure the groups that I can make sure everybody gets the most bang for their buck.

Goretex: That’s a good question. I think some of the solo stuff I do is definitely more extreme than what I want to do in Non-Phixion. That’s one thing that works great: it’s three different styles with three very different points of view. Again, we meet in the middle somewhere. The solo stuff gives me wings to create something so extreme that there is—I don’t like using words like “experimental,” ‘cause then people start thinking something else, but I like pushing the buttons and when it comes down to performance, using different words that people don’t use and trying different cadences. It allows me to try stuff that’s outside the box.

Crazy Hood: Eclipse, even though you’re not a primary producer on the material that made The Future Is Now, were you the main engineer/presence at that notorious Brooklyn studio?

DJ Eclipse: We had an engineer that we had hired to do the actual running of the boards and stuff like that. I would really go more so, when it was time for me to actually do something. I’m still living in the same place that I was then—I’m in Queens, and where the studio was located, I used to have to take four trains just to get there. It wasn’t the type of thing where I was going everyday to hang out. It was more so, “When you really need me there, I’ll be there.” [Laughs] For the most part, it was really for the sessions where I had to lay the scratches down. Obviously, there were other times when I’d go just to kind of go just to hang out—but nowhere near as much as the other guys, ‘cause they all lived in that neighborhood.

Crazy Hood: Few groups in Hip-Hop can claim the DIY approach that Non-Phixion had. Like Eazy-E and N.W.A. selling records out of the trunk of the car, you guys used your relationships and presence in the scene to make things happen. After working so hard for so long, was there a specific tipping point you can recall when things started seeming truly bigger than you realized?

Goretex: I think as far as labels, we’d just been through so much. Certain situations put you through a ringer emotionally, and you’re just dealing with a monster—whether it was Geffen, Matador, or Warner Bros. [Records]. Originally, I think the way the industry was geared, it was a little more artist-friendly—even though we were sort of like the back-end on the business, as you can call it. We kind of had our foot in the door; “Okay, we just signed to Geffen and there’s Courtney Love walking down the hall, stoned.” Then the business collapses, and every artist has to fend for themselves, and we were just ready to take the bull by the horns. It would be idyllic to have this huge relationship with a major label, tour support, and they paid you hundreds of thousands of dollars. In the beginning, we were stuck on that. We were green. We definitely wanted to be in the company of people who were signed to a major label—the same one we were signed to, such as The Roots, Large Professor, GZA, and Killah Priest. We were happy to be a part of that. When that didn’t really happen, “Okay, fuck it. We move in.” After that happened, we got stern, and we really just started going in. Part of our strength came from that. The big picture of what were trying to say just got stronger, like a snowball effect.

DJ Eclipse: I don’t recall there being one moment. It was just a collective of things. During that time, Non-Phixion was fresh, it was new. We were like the Odd Future of that era. We were getting coverage in magazines and stuff; we were in The Source, we were in XXL, we were in magazines, so that was our time, our moment. Across the board, we were getting that love. It was also a time when there was a little more mystery involved in the music. A lot of people didn’t know who the members of the group were by sight. They’d know our name, but they didn’t know if Non-Phixion was Black, White, whatever—people didn’t know.

We had done a lot of groundwork. Early on, when [MC] Serch was still in the group, when we’d put out the first single, “Legacy” b/w “No Tomorrow,” me and Serch treated it like a major label. We went to Gavin [Convention]. We pressed up however many of hundreds of promo copies to take to Gavin and hit all the DJs with. That grassroots style of going out and [taking care of the DJs] worked. We were doing our part to start the ball rolling, and continuing to put out good music helped out a lot. And by the time we put out the album, seven years in the making, people were ready.

Sabac Red: The tipping point—and this was even before the album came out, Jake, if we can talk about one moment real quick. We had put out some singles, and the goal was always to release an album. Through the trials and tribulations, and being consistent in our ability to release singles, we were fortunate enough to come up in an era where vinyl was selling really big, we had a direct affiliation with Fat Beats with Joe [TK] and Eclipse having worked there, we had a history. In ’98 or ’99, before the album, I remember getting a phone call, “Hey, we got you guys booked for a show for the Roskilde Festival in Denmark.” Meeting at the airport…meeting up with Company Flow, The Arsonists, Natural Elements if I’m not mistaken, Non-Phixion, Bobbito, Mass Influence, and I was sitting on a plane with Bobbito, on the way to Denmark, talking about Hip-Hop. Having been going on Stretch & Bobbito [Radio Show] for years, I’m sitting there thinking, “Here’s somebody I grew up listening to, and am a huge fan of what he brought to the table as a co-boricua, etc., and I’m talking to about life, relationships, and sneakers.” We get off the plane, and we’re greeted by promoters, taken to the hotels, and go and do this festival. Thousands of people [were there], gi-normous! It kicked in, the moment, wow. This is huge! And we don’t have a major record deal. The Internet was just starting to pop off, and we had people in the audience singing “5 Boros” and “No Tomorrow,” and I’m thinking, this is now real to me. I remember in  now, standing in the [San Francisco] Bay area talking to you—I remember it. We traveled the world off of the music made in our little studio in Brooklyn.

Ill Bill: A specific event? No. I just get love, people tell me. I will say that once the MySpace era popped up, and the group was already broken up…it’s crazy, ‘cause ever since the group broke up, people have wanted the group, more so than [when we were together]. We’re bigger now than we were then, and we’re constantly reminded of that, from the man on the street to other artists that we fuck with, or artists we’re meeting for the first time.

Crazy Hood: When you look at the Hip-Hop landscape today, how do you process the influence and impact that Non-Phixion has, and had?

DJ Eclipse: For me, I look at artists like Immortal Technique, and again, to bring up Odd Future, and for different reasons, I see Non-Phixion’s influence on them. With Technique, the political angle of it of being conscious. You have Black Star’s, which are conscious, but a little bit on the safer side, and then you have people like Technique, that are conscious, but are a little more [“fuck you”]. That was our lane. We weren’t so much political, but we were talking about things and presenting questions for you to ask yourself. But we were also doing it in a very aggressive way. The street references…these guys grew up in Brooklyn, talking about what they know and what they see. For Bill and Goretex’s background, they grew up listening to a lot of Metal growing up. There was just a lot of information and references to give it that appeal. The reason I bring up Odd Future is not only because of their fuck-you mentality, but also they’re the Supreme babies. I think Bill might’ve been the first person to wear Supreme clothing in a Hip-Hop video. We were just tapped into all this street stuff that might not have necessarily been Hip-Hop. Action Bronson is another person. He’s like a Goretex, who talks about food references.

Crazy Hood: It’s wild…in the Non-Phixion legend, there’s these images: the group’s studio in Brooklyn, which is no longer there, C.B.G.B.’s, which is now gone, Fat Beats, which is now gone. You guys represent a bygone era of New York City in general, so to what extent do you think Non-Phixion outgrew a city that was changing so rapidly?

Goretex: Absolutely. The album, the sound, everything was a direct influence of New York; we couldn’t make this album anywhere else, in the world. That just stems from us. I’ve always been partially obsessed with New York and Brooklyn; we repped it hard, in lyrics. It’s obviously the place we grew up in, and the place we love. Unfortunately, I was able to feel those changes early on—probably in the early ‘90s. I remember when I was younger, my uncle used to take me to [Manhattan], and we’d just be walking around Times Square. After dark, you’d see all these seedy, shady movie theaters, all these creepy dudes, pimps with huge afros walking around 42nd Street. “The Deuce”—if you wanted to go play some [arcade] games, there’s a good chance you were going to get jumped. The element of danger and that element of horror was definitely eliminated in New York by [Former Mayor Rudy] Gulliani. Some people had detracting comments about Former Mayor Ed Koch, but I think at the end of the day, Koch was great ‘cause Koch didn’t give a shit about the porn theaters. He didn’t care. He still wanted to keep New York a part of what it always was. Yeah, okay, Koch claimed he wanted all the graffiti off of the subways, and he had an anti-graffiti rally. Yeah, that was probably his worst point. But he was still into some sort of preservation of New York. Whereas [Former Mayor Michael] Bloomberg basically sucked dry the personality and the soul of the city to basically create financial situations for everybody else—merely from that standpoint. Now it’s basically all Bed, Bath & Beyond’s and every strip-mall sort of store. It’s a sad apocalypse, really. Everybody that I know definitely mourns the city for what it once was.

Sabac Red: That’s an interesting question…a great question. With Fat Beats closing, when they had their last show, I was out here in the Bay; I didn’t make it out for that. I just remember the imagery that went through my head was hopping on the subway—that was our rehearsal space. We recorded in Brooklyn, but our rehearsal space was Fat Beats, after hours. Bill worked there, Eclipse obviously managed the store. We’d close down, and there’d be blunts being smoked and music being played, and then our rehearsal. Then that shut down. And having performed at two back-to-back sold out shows, two days in a row with Jedi Mind Tricks and Non-Phixion at C.B.G.B.’s, and that’s shut down…I do think there’s this era that we were a part of—extremely fortunate and proud of to be part of—but it is a time capsule of New York City. You can still walk down the streets of Broadway, Greenwich Village, and Tribeca, and you can still see Non-Phixion vinyl stickers. The first stickers we ever made, when [MC] Serch was still part of the group, you can still see them posted up, randomly, like on the Lower East Side. Those who know…you can still see those stickers. Bill was a sticker head, so everything we did, we made stickers for. When you think about that capsule…I go back to New York at least two times a year, and I walk around, and I see the difference, the change, and just the transition that New York has made, it makes me sad in a way to see how much has changed. But there’s still a capsule, like you said, that folks who live there, folks who were part of the culture who know, is there in some way, shape or form.

Ill Bill: People call The Green CD an album, you’ll hear it from the horse’s mouth: it’s not an album. Non-Phixion only released one album. It’s a unicorn. [Laughs]

DJ Eclipse: I speak on it indirectly all the time when I’m on the radio. It represented the sound of New York. I’m not gonna say it’s not there today, but it’s not as abundant as it was then. If you go back that mid-to-late ‘90s, especially with the whole Fat Beats movement and the indie era, everything that was comin’ out then was just grimy and gritty and had this sound and feel to it. It’s just missing on a larger scale today. You still have pockets of it, and that’s obviously a theme that I go for on my radio show, regardless of where it’s from. That Non-Phixion album and that timeframe was just such a great period of New York music.

Crazy Hood: As a DJ, Eclipse, is there a record from the album that you’ve put under a needle, whether for yourself or playing out, more than others?

DJ Eclipse: Hmmm. Well, it would be two answers. For myself, “Drug Music” is one of my favorite joints, just because it’s a crazy beat. I think everybody killed it on that record. Plus, it’s also a record I’m doing scratches on. To have all elements of Non-Phixion in it, it’s probably my personal favorite joint. The one that we probably play the most, when [Ill Bill and I] do shows, we do “Black Helicopters” the most, on a public performance kind of thing.

Crazy Hood: As the MCs, what is your proudest verse from the album?

Sabac Red: I don’t know if anybody’s asked me that specific question before. I love my verse on “We Are The Future” with the Large Professor beat. Part of that is because at one point I actually did go on a fast. I was fasting while writing that verse [Recites complete verse] “I’m on a five day fast / Flash Gordon blast award / And cash hording; launder money for rainy day sessions / Expose your weapons / lessons value life like some…” Everything in there, from the compounding syllables to what I was actually feeling at the time, in that moment. Looking at Large Professor’s face through the [recording room] glass, and I almost did it in one take, and him being open on it, that was my moment, that verse right there!

Ill Bill: My proudest verse on the album isn’t a verse at all, it’s a hook: it’s the “If You Got Love” hook. Yeah. That hook, that’s one of those things that I envisioned in my mind, brought to fruition, and was blown away by even how iller it was than I envisioned—plus Pete Rock on the hook; I heard it in my head [first]. That’s the joint! We used to close all of our shows with “If You Got Love,” it’s just so powerful.

Goretex: That’s a tough one. I think the way I write is very for the moment. I think a lot of what I wanted to convey was something that would mean something 15 years later. A lot of the topics, and stances are coming from a very paranoid point of view. Some of it [is verbalizing] surveillance, underground bunkers—the slang we were throwing around then, and we weren’t doing it to be “Illuminati” or part of any elite group of rappers who were speaking about it then, we weren’t doing it to fit in with them. We definitely didn’t want them to say, “That’s some revolutionary conscious thing.” These weren’t topics for 2065. I’m trying to tell people, “This is right now. There’s a chance you’re going to go to a FEMA camp. These things are happening now.” It’s rampant. You can just see some of the horrific circumstances that have surfaced since, which is unfortunate. It was spot-on though, what we were trying to communicate.

Purchase Non-Phixion’s The Future Is Now Box-set from Get On Down.

Jake Paine has been a music industry professional since 2002. He was formerly’s Editor-in-Chief for nearly six years, following five years as AllHipHop’s Features Editor. Paine has written for Forbes, XXL, The Source, and Mass Appeal, among others. He currently resides in Pittsburgh. Follow him @PaineInVain